Nov 14, 2023 - News

Police use tear gas to break up protest against training center

Law enforcement officers walk amid tear gas that was dispersed to break up a protest of Atlanta's public safety training center

Law enforcement officers used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters on Constitution Road near the site of Atlanta's public safety training center. Photo: Riley Bunch/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Opponents of Atlanta's public safety training center clashed briefly with police as they marched on Monday in DeKalb County's Gresham Park neighborhood.

Driving the news: Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies used tear gas and flash bang explosives to disperse marchers on Constitution Road near West Side Place, near the site of the $90 million project.

  • According to a statement from DeKalb County, the protesters started an "unpermitted march" and were told they would not be let through.
  • They "began to force their way through a line of 30 DeKalb County police officers," which prompted law enforcement to throw tear gas canisters into the crowd.
  • The gas halted the demonstration, and the protesters retreated to Gresham Park where the march began.
  • DeKalb County said no injuries or arrests were reported.

During the march, protesters chanted "Viva Viva Tortuguita" and "Cop City will never be built."

The intrigue: Several journalists who were covering the protest posted on X that law enforcement separated the media from where the clash took place and told them the area was a "crime scene."

What they're saying: Atlanta police chief Darin Schierbaum said Monday that officers saw some protesters had in their possession "makeshift weapons" such as shields and bolt cutters "designed to be used as weapons against law enforcement (and) construction workers, as well as breaching equipment" at the site.

  • The chief said those tools were recovered after protesters ran into the woods and quickly discarded them.
  • "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a group that has the best interest of Atlanta at heart," he later said. "This is a group today that left Gresham Park prepared to breach the site (and) prepared to do harm."

The other side: Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders, one of the organizations opposed to the training center, told Axios in a statement that the tools were used to plant saplings along the route.

  • The only people there with weapons meant to do harm were the over-militarized police who threw tear gas and sound grenades," Franklin said.
  • "This was a further demonstration of how militarized the police are and will extend that militarization even further if 'cop city' is ever built."

The big picture: The protest capped off a weekend of nonviolent events planned by opponents of the project, which is being challenged by a group of residents and activists who want voters to decide the fate of the plan.

What's next: Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 14 in federal court on the effort to collect signatures for the referendum, the AJC reported.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more